This coming week is going to fly by faster than the entirety of Circuit Breaker — we are, after all, knee-deep in the General Elections and we’re only days away from voting.
I’m not going to be parroting voting issues here — that’s not what you’re here for — but the information overload is certainly an effect of this pivotal period, and there’s nothing better than stepping away from your laptop and diving into your record collection for a good minute.
This week, Nick and Leon have rounded up crates of records that shine in jazz excellence, unsurprisingly, and there’s a healthy mix of current releases and reissues to dig into to get the blood flowing (if you’re not already watching Hammer Time wink wink).
Let’s get it.
The resurgence of Sachiko Kanenobu is one of the more heartening consequences of our YouTube crate-digger age — unearthed obscure treasures, forgotten over the decades, uploaded for online consumption. Cue “where has this music been all my life” comments from gobsmacked YouTube users.
The Japanese musician released Misora in 1972, amidst a wave of poetic singer-songwriters discovering their voice in a post-war society rebuilding itself (the compilation Even A Tree Can Shed Tears is the perfect gateway into that scene). Misora remained her only full-length effort, recorded with the creative assistance of peers Haruomi Hosono and Eiichi Ohtaki, but it had only flourished in appreciation within secretive circles of music nerds outside of Japan. While it has been reissued in limited quantities over the years, it’s gotten its proper due with Light in the Attic.
Now that Kanenobu has enjoyed a renewed path in her career, performing select shows around the world and attaining a young, newer audience, now’s a good a time as any to delve into the earthy magic of Misora, a gentle and sweeping album so captivating at any time of day. This LITA reissue comes prepared with an extensive interview with her.
Jazz organ is remarkably enjoyable, but with its historic association with the marketable genre tag known as “easy listening”, it’s also a bit of a challenge to find the musicians who creatively pushed jazz forward with the instrument. We already covered the inimitable Dr. Lonnie Smith in the previous roundup, but Gilles Peterson’s Arc Records has made the search much easier with this new reissue.
A labor of love from “Queen of the organ” Shirley Scott, a prolific and highly versatile jazz musician and composer, One For Me glides along smoothly — even as the performances recorded herein come across less like rehearsed parts and more like collaborative explorations. Scott uses the organ and mellotron with a deft textural touch, allowing saxophonist Harold Vick to occupy the space with terrific immediacy. This is undoubtedly Scott’s album, with maximized creative control on a recording fully self-funded, after years of working on projects subjugated by stuffy (and sexist) record executives. Let her words speak for themselves:
“All of the music recorded in this album is both personal and very purposeful to me because it is the first step toward honesty about what and how I want to play. I’ve done a lot of other albums, a lot of different ways for a lot of different people and now, with the help of the Creator, in whom all things are possible, I have done one for me too.”
Sault remains a mystery — all we know about them is they reside in the UK and are led by artist Dean “Inflo” Josiah — but when the music’s this gripping, the allure is merely a bonus.
5 and 7 are two albums the group dropped in succession last year, a collection of immensely spirited funk tunes that feel transported straight out of the 1970s, with an urgency that’s eternally relevant. The group’s newest album, Untitled (Black Is), was only just released and it’s an essential listen for these times.
While that title might take a while to be issued on wax, 5 and 7 are albums you should immerse yourself with while there’s still time — they’re only going to get bigger, so now’s the perfect chance to get a headstart.
No other album quite personified the freewheeling energy of 2016 (well most of it) like 99.9%, the infectious debut of producer Kaytranada. The only producer bold enough then to harness the power of Craig David, Anderson .Paak and BADBADNOTGOOD on a Gal Costa-sampling dance album — seriously, what a visionary — this album still slaps, but Bubba arrives in 2020 a different beast.
The focus remains on the dancefloor, but the techniques Kaytranada employs are different. Gone are the days of being a solitary producer hunched over his laptop — Bubba is a piece of work birthed from a fully-fledged studio, and the tracks are the result of extensive in-person collaborations (the list includes Kali Uchis, Masego, Mick Jenkins, Charlotte Day Wilson, amongst others).
It’s a dense R&B and afrobeat-inflected album to groove to, and it works equally as an enveloping listening experience and a perfect mood-setter for any ordinary work task.
While International Anthem hosts a vast array of exciting young artists, many of whom reside in Chicago, a name like Jeff Parker sticks out not just for his veteran status but for his immense contribution to the city’s flourishing underground music scene.
A member of pivotal post-rock group Tortoise, Parker has also contributed to the experimental sounds of Chicago — notably with label Thrill Jockey Records — and with his new home, he’s advanced his own musical language. It doesn’t get any better than Suite for Max Brown, where he effortlessly bridges the sounds of older jazz and funk with avant-garde digital techniques he’s amassed over his career. The final product is a constant conversation between what he dubs as “man vs machine”, with live improvisations backed by intuitive drum loops.
For an album personally dedicated to his mother, it’s expectedly tender and heartfelt, and unexpectedly short: the 39 minutes will be over before you know it. Buy it on vinyl and cherish every minute it’s on your turntable.
The mention of the musicians involved might suggest a heady or complex experience listening to The Other Fantasy, but that is far from the real thing.
A recent phenomenon that you can find online are musicians inspired by Weather Channel music — essentially, the smoothest jazz music you can conjure, inflected by celestial synths, and a pressing need to relax. It’s corporate mood music of the highest order, and this space is explored by a collective of seasoned jazz musicians in The Other Fantasy.
There’s lots of slap bass and flute magic to dig into here — but the centrepiece on this EP is ‘A Palm in the Closet’, which dares you to manifest the island breeze in your bedroom, even if it faces a multi-storey carpark.
Yes, you’re not seeing things — that album title looks familiar, but it’s not the only thing this project shares with A Seat at the Table, the 2016 opus by Solange.
The Koreatown Oddity is an MC, producer, and a familiar face in the indie rap scene of Los Angeles. He’s notably made contact with the larger hip-hop community on his latest effort Little Dominiques Nosebleed, a raw and focused documentation on life in his neighborhood.
This little curio, however, was initially issued on cassette to small and captive fanfare in 2018. It’s a distillation of the impact Solange’s masterwork had on him — reworking snippets of the album into a brisk 19-minute beat tape. Now pressed on fancy coke bottle clear vinyl, The Koreatown Oddity unearths new magic from an album already teeming with boundless depths.
We treat the experience of listening to music as something restorative, but Angel Bat Dawid believes it’s even greater. “The Egyptians used the power of sound to move objects. I believe that sound technology can move things. Sound is more powerful than we can imagine,” she speaks in a conversation with writer Emma Warren you must read.
It’s hard not to get engulfed by the world she meticulously crafts here, and the effect of listening to The Oracle feels like intruding into a spiritually-powered improvised jam session. The disbelief will set in once you read that Bat Dawid recorded every instrument on this album, save for a drum track on ‘Cape Town’. Bat Dawid masterfully uses catharsis as a foundation, and The Oracle ends up an intense and unfettered meditation on Black identity.
International Anthem’s discography is an extraordinary deep dive into modern jazz and improvised music — The Analog Vault’s got a few others stocked too — and the heights The Oracle achieves tower like a cathedral all on their own. Do not miss!!